During our adoption preparation I had to come to terms with the fact that I am afraid of failing as a parent.
That my inability to live up to my own standards, let alone God’s is a massive struggle for me.
As we walked into parents’ evening two weeks ago, a friend was leaving – she was sobbing.
The lady ahead of us was in tears talking to the reception class teacher.
Our turn came and we sat in front of Star’s teacher and were handed a bit of paper with her mid-term report on.
This stated that she was not reaching a “Good level of development” in maths, spelling or reading and writing.
Her teacher started by saying it was a shame they only reported on those three areas because in so many others she is reaching the expected level: her creativity, IT and in personal and social care (if you ignore the time she hit her class mate with a ladle from the mud kitchen).
That didn’t take away from the black typed note I held in my hand.
“Since when do we define our children by a tick in three areas of academic achievement?” I asked myself. “6 months after starting school are we really labelling children as successful or failures already?”
Has the world gone mad?
Two weeks later we went on a family holiday to center parcs. Star loved the swimming pool and enjoyed introducing herself to others in the hot tub. After finding out the names of one family of four there was a short conversation about swimming goggles and floats and then they got up to leave heading to the main pool.
Star wanted to leave with them and she screamed when I caught her so she could not go.
She had met them for no more than 3 minutes and she wanted to say goodbye to me and leave with them.
I can’t explain the pain, the sense of failure and the fear, that after nearly two years, she can be so indiscriminate. That just because a stranger says something kind about your goggles that it is safe to just go off with them.
A few minutes later she ran off. We have spent so much time talking about being safe. About the fact that Mummy and Daddy keep Star safe. That she must not run off.
This is when my fear of parental failure really kicks in.
I can cope with not achieving some arbitrary level of literacy and numeracy that has been dreamt up by the Department of Education (who have no idea of the hurdles my daughter is overcoming).
But I can’t cope with the fear that she is not forming a strong attachment to us.
I know children with Down Syndrome can be indiscriminate. I know she was cross with me. Her flight or fight response is to run.
She does want to be found.
But nothing quite prepares you for the rejection and the humiliation of your nearly 6 year old just wanting to leave with strangers she has just met or preferring to run into busy a crowded area than to stay safely with you.
I want to tell her:
“Don’t you realise how much I love you, how we care for you, provide for you protect you?”
And then I read my bible and I know that God knows all about rejection of his care and his provision and his love.
And I ask him for his strength to go on.
To keep on loving.
To cast my cares and anxieties on him.
To know that he sees my success and my failures and that his forgiveness and grace is for me and for my children.
Two years ago, Star and I had not met. Today it occurred to me that success may not be measured in the great “defining moments” in our lives. But in a series of small events, probably often so insignificant that they would go completely unnoticed to the casual observer.
Such as Star running happily in the winter sunshine, pink bobble hat bouncing as she splashed in the puddles from last night’s rain.
Star sat next to her Grandad, him reading the paper, her reading her book, completely content in each other’s company.
Ben helping Star over a high climbing frame; his kind earnest voice encouraging her.
Star, role playing Mummies and Babies with me. She was the Mummy and I was the baby. Giving me pretend food and wrapping a blanket around my shoulders before looking intently into my eyes and saying:
“You are safe.”